Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Surprise Visit from Ubuntu Academy Youth, 1st Year Kids - Has It Really Been 5 Years?

In 2014, when I redesigned summer programs for youth in Connecticut, I had a special plan to provide literacy opportunities to immigrant and refugee youth in the area. Ubuntu Academy was born and the first year, we had 12 students attend under the instruction of two phenomenal graduate students: Kaitlyn Kelly and Jessica Baldizon.

This summer, Ubuntu Academy will run for the 5th time. I'm happy to say, too, that Fairfield University will be home to one young man beginning next Fall, as he met the requirements for admission to be part of the class of 2022.

Last night, I had a surprise visit from Simon, Omar, Nadia, and Arcadius, participants in that first summer's work. It was that year that we read Kwame Alexander's The Crossover and we first began working with Fairfield University's Men's Basketball program. Fast forward, and Ubuntu Academy is now 25-30 youth per summer. They receive language support, reading opportunities, exposure to college campus, and direct line to academic success. The first generation of kids are all enrolled in colleges and vocational schools to learn trades. Nadia is already doing nursing work.

The narrative being spun by many in the nation could not be further from the truth that I've experienced through 25 years of teaching. Young people granted asylum in this nation come driven to achieve, to work hard, to make their families proud, and to live the American dream. At times, I've wished that their work ethic, passions, and drive could be shared with the American-born in American schools that I've worked with.

Not only do these young people excel against extremely difficult paths to achieve in the U.S., they do so with total appreciation and respect for what the American flag stands for. These are young people who arrived after limited and disrupted education in refugee camps around the world and are members of the 1% fortunate enough to be given an opportunity in our country. The responsibilities they have on their shoulder are beyond amazing - their families depend on them and learning in a second language is extremely hard.

Imagine trying to read, write and excel in Swahili, Bantu, or Telegu. I would imagine most, including me, would flop on our faces. No, these are young people driven to be the best they can be as they take advantage of a new life in the U.S. (and their achievements in Bridgeport are not easy, as the struggles come at them in stereo).

Yet, they achieve. They continue to achieve. And they appreciate.

I will forever be curious, if not frustrated, by the narrative scripted for immigrants and refugees as burdens on our society. It is the opposite. They are role models, inspirations, and heroes.

Cry The Beloved Country, America. Sometimes you make zero sense to me.

No comments:

Post a Comment